🕔Mar 09, 2006

While most people are content to admire the peaks around us, an adventurous few spend all their spare time climbing them. But even in a mountainous region such as the Northwest, it can be difficult for mountaineers to connect with like-minded people.

That is about to change, however. A group of Smithers mountaineers have decided to tackle not only rocky summits, but also the restrictions of the oldest and largest mountaineering organization in Canada.

They have started a new trend for the Alpine Club of Canada, by creating the Bulkley Skeena Chapter as part of the Alpine Club’s Prince George Section—a first for the Club that turns 100 years old this year.

In November 2004, the mountain keeners gathered for their first meeting. They quickly realized there were lots of local residents interested in mountaineering. Together they decided to create a local group as part of the national club. That way, they could get access to liability insurance, huts, camps, and training through existing infrastructure.

Once members studied the information about starting with the standard club format—known as a section—it was decided there was an opportunity to create something new that better suits the needs of locals.

Talks began with the Alpine Club’s head office in Canmore and with the Prince George Section. Ultimately, the idea of a chapter within an existing section was born.

The chapter presents a great opportunity for more experienced mountaineers to mentor novice ones. It allows local mountaineers to develop a trip schedule that targets peaks closer to home and provides a venue for “armchair mountaineering” (better known as drinking beer and re-living past glories) with new-found friends—all without being bogged down in the bureaucracy that can swamp a small group.

This past spring and summer a number of trips were offered through the chapter including a ski traverse of the Cambria Icefield and a summer mountaineering trip up Brian Boru, the dominant feature on the skyline to the west of Smithers.

For two years, ice climbing at Glacier Gulch has been offered, in addition to rock climbing and scrambling.

A variety of upcoming trips are available for members and non-members alike. The Bulkley Skeena Chapter will be leading more ice-climbing trips in the Smithers’ Glacier Gulch area, as well as in the Rockies. There will also be some introductory ski mountaineering on Hudson Bay Mountain in the Bulkley Valley and more ski touring in the Babines, and again to Cambria Icefield.

The Prince George Section was established 10 years ago and has a lending library, group gear and a well-established trip schedule focusing on the surrounding area, the Rockies and the Cariboo.

This spring, they will offer ski touring to Driscoll Ridge (170 kilometres east of Prince George) and into the Kooteneys, and ice climbing in the Rockies. As the weather warms up, rock climbing will be on the menu—be it Terrace, Williams Lake or Mt. Pope (near Fort St. James).

To mark the Alpine Club of Canada’s centennial, the Bulkley Skeena Chapter will make an attempt to scale Howson Peak (2,759 m). This difficult peak, first climbed in 1958, has a tragic past. An attempt in 1957 by a team including Rex Gibson was turned back due to weather just short of the summit. On the descent, a fall resulted in his death. The climbers plan to replace a summit registry to honour the attempts made by Gibson and other parties nearly a half century ago.

The Prince George Section will take on Mt. Ida (3,189 m) in Kakwa Provincial Park to place a summit register in memory of George Evanoff, who before passing away in 2004 was a significant contributor to the Prince George mountaineering community.

The Club permits non-members to join two trips before becoming a member but you must have some basic skills and stamina. Each trip is different, and talking with the trip leader will quickly determine whether a given trip is for you or not.

One of the goals of the club is to develop the skills needed in the mountains and provide opportunities to safely apply those skills. There is also a focus on developing leadership skills, with training made available. There will be trips and practice sessions where you can learn the skills essential to safe travel through the mountains. Habits of mountain appreciation and safe travel have become traditions in the Alpine Club of Canada and those habits continue through various chapters and groups, which are always on the lookout for mountaineers willing to share their knowledge and expertise.

The club welcomes those who want to enjoy the mountains “up close and personal,” and will facilitate your journey in the safest way possible.

The Bulkley Skeena Chapter would love to continue expanding west. For more detailed information about any of the trips offered, or about the club itself, please contact Sheldon Clare, president of the Prince George Section, at 250-563-2804 or by e-mail Director of the Bulkley Skeena Chapter, Shannon Finnegan, can be reached at 250-847-5954 or by e-mailing

Celebrating 100 years of Canadian mountaineering

The Alpine Club of Canada has a number of events lined up to help celebrate its centennial:

March 25: Gala Dinner at the Hotel Garry in Winnipeg to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the ACC. Inaugural presentation by Parks Canada World Heritage Theatre of their interpretative play “Elizabeth Parker and the Alpine Club.”

June 2-18: Yukon ACC Centennial Camp, St. Elias Mountains.

July 1 to Aug. 12: Premier Range Centennial General Mountaineering Camp, sponsored by Mountain Hardwear. Six week-long camps.

July: Canada Post to issue domestic postage stamp to honour the Club’s centennial.

July 8: Commemorative celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first General Mountaineering Camp at Yoho Lake, Yoho National Park.

July 15: 100th Annual General Meeting at the Wheeler Hut, Glacier National Park.

July 16-22: Little Yoho Stanley Mitchell Centennial Camp.

July 24-29: Marmot Women’s Centennial Summer Mountaineering Camp.

July 29-Aug. 5: The North Face Centennial Summer Leadership Course

Oct. 13: Opening of the Heritage Room at the Canmore Clubhouse. The Heritage Room will reflect the social history of the first 100 years of the ACC.

Oct. 14: The Great Canadian Slide Show, in Banff.

Oct. 14: Centennial dinner at the Banff Park Lodge, Banff. John Wheeler, the grandson of founder A.O. Wheeler, who as the patron of the of the centennial dinner will extend greeting to some of the 60-80 foreign alpine federation presidents from around the world who will be attending the UIAA meeting.

Oct. TBD: Opening of the ACC exhibit at the Whyte Museum entitled “The Mountaineer and the Artist: Reflection on a Mountain Place.”

Spring 2007: Publication of the Canadian Alpine Journal Centennial Edition.

The A.C.C. now operates the largest public backcountry hut system in North America and offers mountain adventure opportunities around the world.